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GOP hopes IRS inquiry will snag health care overhaul

Political scandals have strange ways of causing collateral damage, and Republicans are hoping the furor over federal tax enforcers singling out conservative groups will ensnare their biggest target: President Obama’s health care law.

But no one appears to have connected the factual dots yet, and it’s unclear whether they will.

The Internal Revenue Service has a major role in carrying out the health care law, because financial assistance to help the uninsured afford coverage will be funneled through the tax system. At the same time, the IRS is also responsible for penalties on individuals and employers who fail to comply with the law’s requirements.

In the latest twist, it turns out that the former head of the office that subjected Tea-Party groups seeking tax exemptions to tougher scrutiny is now running the tax agency’s division in charge of implementing the health care law.

That official apparently switched roles before internal alarm bells went off about the problem. But feed all that into today’s frenzied world of online speculation, and red-meat associations are irresistible.

“Now we’ve learned that the IRS, which is tasked with enforcing this very unpopular bill of Obamacare, the IRS admitted they targeted Americans,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, said during floor debate this week on repealing the health care law.

“And so this gargantuan government expansion known as Obamacare will allow bureaucrats access to our most intimate, personal health information,” she added. “It will be a huge database that government is putting together and building right now. Under Obamacare, the average American will pay more, they’ll get less, and now they have to worry that their government may punish them because of their beliefs.”

Nonsense, says Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS.

“There really isn’t a tie,” said Levin. “This is another effort by the Republicans to essentially try to score political points.”

The head of the IRS health care office, Sarah Hall Ingram, was in charge of the tax exempt division when agents first started improperly targeting conservative groups over their applications for tax-exempt status. The fallout has already led to the ouster of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, followed by the announcement that the current head of the division will retire.

But the IRS said Ingram was re-assigned to help the agency implement the health care law in December 2010, about six months before a Treasury inspector general’s report said her subordinate, the director of exempt organizations, learned about the targeting.

“There isn’t any evidence that Sarah Ingram had any inkling of the problems,” said Levin. By comparison, Levin continued, ousted commissioner Miller failed to adequately inform Congress after he learned.

Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, said GOP lawmakers are right to be looking for a connection, but must be careful not to overplay their hand.

The health care law “is 50-50 with the public on a good day,” said Davis. “You put that together with the IRS and it’s combustible. For Republicans, I think they need to go a little slower and get some facts in.”

“I don’t think it’s just a couple of underlings, but they don’t have any smoking gun yet,” he added.

Though it plays a crucial role in carrying out the health care law, the IRS is part of the back-office operation. IRS agents won’t be setting up health insurance markets, and they won’t have a say in which health plans people get to pick or what doctors they see.

However, agency officials will determine who is eligible for financial assistance under the law – and who must pay penalties.

The reason the IRS is involved in what’s essentially a social program is that lawmakers crafted the financial subsidies available under the health law as tax credits. The agency already administers another major social program, the earned income tax credit, which long ago surpassed welfare as the main source of government assistance for low-income families.

The IRS is involved with four major components of the health care law. The most important one is determining if individual Americans are entitled to new tax credits to help pay private insurance premiums. It’s a complex calculation.

Keyed to income on a sliding scale, the credits are available starting in 2014 to households making up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $94,000 for a family of four. Individuals or families are eligible if they don’t have affordable coverage on the job. But if you understate your income to get a bigger credit, you’ll owe more taxes next year.

The agency is also in charge of assessing penalties on people who ignore the law’s requirement to carry health insurance, which applies to virtually all Americans starting next year.

On the employer side, the IRS administers a tax credit to help small businesses with low-wage employees afford coverage, and it’s also in charge of imposing penalties on companies with 50 or more employees that don’t offer coverage.

Legacy Comments10

Hope is not necessary...the Obama Chicago Thug politics have been exposed...... 2 more scandals will arrive this week....GM conservative car dealers closed and IRS seized million of medical records

"The fallout has already led to the ouster of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, followed by the announcement that the current head of the division will retire. "...Miller already resigned effective June 1st. Obama was so angry, so disgusted, so outraged that he ousted Miller...effective June 1st.

A President sets a tone, or a climate per say. That applies to the company you work for or the president of The United States. He or she gives the message on how they expect the company to operate. President Obama set the tone early on when he decided to get involved with the Harvard Prof being arrested. By doing that he put the idea that the Prof was arrested based on his skin color. Shortly after that, folks on the left on cue started calling Reps racist. Then it was open warfare on the TP. Even the President said in his book that the TP was based on racism. Biden called them terrorists and put forth the idea that they got their funding from foreign groups. The best way to thwart Romney donations is to go after his donors. Get the IRS, FBI and homeland security to go after them. Maybe President Obama did not directly pick up the phone and order the IRS to go after conservative groups, but he sure as heck is guilty of setting a tone that told those who worked under him where he stood.

for the low information democrat voter you now know about the famous Obama's Chicago Thug Politics that he brought to the White House

How long can the Obama regime continue to claim they know nothing? Or are they counting on the majority of the public, who, like them, know nothing? Using the IRS to go after your political enemies? Thuggish. And typical of Obama.

If the president would have used the IRS to go after conservatives, then that would be wrong and I would call him out on it. My understanding is that after Nixon did that, procedures were put in place to prevent that from happening again. Don't count your chickens just yet GWTW--there has be NO evidence of any kind that Obama that the president is involved. Of course, that won't stop his enemies from drilling and drilling until they hit a nerve somewhere. Similar to Benghazi...

Actually GenXer, we are trying to find who ordered the IRS to go ahead and do this. Not necessarily the Prez. We are getting no answers here. I suspect like past scandals, the answers will keep changing also. That is what folks do when they are hiding something. It was hard to believe that Nixon did what he did. But at some point, folks cave when they realize they are being used as scapegoats. We get no answers about anything. Does not matter what it is. I dunno does not cut it. The folks testifying are trying to use the excuse they have no clue. Try that with your boss when he asks you what caused the screwup in your dept. The sad part is now folks do not trust their govt even more. And the avoidance we are seeing at these hearings to own up is getting pretty darn scary. Two things are possible here. You either have an incompetence issue or corruption.

OK, then. Let's just find out what happened first before we start burning people at the stake. Personally, I don't care if conservative groups were scrutinized just like I wouldn't care if progressive ones were too. Good. I hope the IRS scrutinizes all these "non-profit" PACs. As far as Nixon goes, it's really a shame what he did to himself. He was well on his way to being a great president. I think he was extremely intelligent and had a lot of foresight. He saw China as a great rising power before anyone else did. He warned Americans about our energy dependance problem. He ended Vietnam relatively smoothly. He had meaningful talks with the USSR. He finished desegregation started by Johnson et al. It was his own ego and paranoia that did him in.

Thats the problem Gen X er...only conservative groups were. Progressive ones sailed through. Banana Republic enough for you?

Oh no no no...just a couple of "lone wolfs" (lol) acting completely on their own. Obama...found out just like you and I did. By reading the news. If you believe that, then, I truly feel sorry for you, and my first comment is well proven.

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